IAF selects 12 national highways for emergency landing

The Indian Air force (IAF) has cleared 12 national highways  for use as emergency landing airstrips to enable rescue teams to reach affected areas easily, reports quoting sources connected with the project said.

Of the 12 national highways selected for emergency landings, three are in the Maoist-affected Odisha-Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh belt that are also prone to the vagaries of nature like floods and cyclones almost every year.

These include the Jamshedpur-Balasore highway and Chattarpur-Digha highway - both touching Odisha, the Kishanganj-Islampur highway (Bihar). Delhi-Moradabad highway (Delhi-Uttar Pradesh), Bijbehara-Chinar Bagh highway (Jammu and Kashmir), Rampur-Kathgodam highway (Uttarakhand), Lucknow-Varanasi highway (Uttar Pradesh), Dwarka-Maliya highway (Gujarat), Kharagpur-Keonjhar highway (West Bengal) and Mohanbari-Tinsukia highway (Assam).

Others include Vijaywada-Rajahmundry highway in Andhra Pradesh, Chennai-Puducherry highway in Tamil Nadu and Phalodi-Jaisalmer highway in Rajasthan.

These highway airstrips will be reinforced with tar or concrete to enable safe landings of aircraft. The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has been entrusted with the maintenance and operations of these airstrips.

While these highways will remain open to the public during normal times, they will be closed during emergency operations.

"The highways will be open for public during normal times, but in case there is an emergency, then normal traffic will be blocked and the stretch will be used for aircraft landing. Also, alternate ways will be created for the normal traffic flow during emergencies," said the official.

Although the initial proposal was to develop a total of 21 national highways into airstrips, for now only 12 highways have been cleared, officials said, adding that work on these airstrips are expected to start soon.

The initiative is intended to strategically operate in places prone to natural calamities and where relief work cannot be carried out without the help of choppers or aircraft.

The highway strips have been chosen in a way to cover the entire country during natural calamities.

Minister of roads, transport, highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari announced the project for convering highways into airstrips in 2016.

He also announced the formation of a committee to decide on the specifications for highway stretches that can double up as airstrips.